EXHIBIT:"Spirit of the Book," a juried exhibition of artists' books, and a group sculpture exhibit. Shelburne Art Center. Through September.
ARTWORK:"Without Warning" by Lara Henderson
The Shelburne Art Center's August-through-September exhibition is actually two shows coexisting nicely in the same space: sculpture, and sculptural books. "Spirit of the Book" presents two-dozen artist-made books selected from the Vermont Book Arts Guild, creations culled from The Waskowmium collection, and selections from the University of Vermont Book Arts collection. An untitled six-person sculpture show, with works appearing indoors and out, is also on view. The shows flow seamlessly together into a lively and unified, albeit eclectic, exhibition.
Book artist Marti Nash has described her process as a "dialogue, each step helping to determine the next along the way to something beyond my imagining." She began her book on display, "There Is a Tree," as a traditional picture book before re-imagining it as a unique artist book. Its woodsy illustrations are original black-and-white woodblock prints, handcolored in gouache on paper. Five of the 18, 7-by-7-inch woodblocks from which the prints were made are also on display.
The pages of "There Is a Tree" open like the bellows of a concertina, and variations of the same design appear in books by Lara Henderson and Nancy Stone. Stone reveals in her artist statement that her book "Berry Patch" was "conceived over nine years as I observed vibrant stems emerging from frozen canes and the ruby glow of raspberries evolving from pear-like blossoms." That poetic description of the 8-by-13-inch book's origins nicely accounts for the source of its elegant color-pencil illustrations of the berry patch's seasonal transformations. Stone's creation includes leaf prints and "plant canes" embedded in encaustic.
Henderson's 8-by-8-inch "Without Warning" is a cave-like tunnel book. Its aperture was cut into the concertina folds and plastered with black-and-white words -- from Xerox transfers and other printmaking techniques -- which capture the mental cacophony of schizophrenia. Fortunately, Henderson's interest in the disease is based on research she did in college, rather than personal experience. But regardless of the source, her 8-by-8-inch sculptural book unflinchingly describes the black hole of schizophrenia -- which sometimes strikes young adults, as the title says, "Without Warning."
Cestmir Suska is an internationally acclaimed sculptor from the Czech Republic who is presently working in the U.S. His pieces investigate pine cone forms, and are on view here as part of the group sculpture show. "Pine Cone Circles" is a 59-by-59-inch rust-colored print on white paper, tinted by the red oxide of Suska's outdoor sculptures. He borrows triangles derived from traditional Czech motifs and organizes them into the concentrically circular rhythms in which conifer pine cone scales grow. The triangles of "Pine Cone Circles" recede into the center of the composition and become progressively smaller.
Suska's outdoor pine cone-inspired sculptures were cut from cast-off metal. "Pine Cone Cylinder" was fashioned from the propane tank from which he pulled his rust print. The horizontal sculpture lies directly on the ground, without a base, just like a pine cone that has fallen naturally. As seen in the rust print, it also has triangles diminishing in size at its ends, like pine cone scales.
Denis Versweyveld also explores gigantism with his cement "Ceremonial Vessels." A 37-inch maquette of the piece is in the gallery; the full-sized version, twice as large, is installed outdoors. Versweyveld's human-scaled, abstract concrete teapot, cup and bottle refer to the Japanese tea ceremony. The vertical, cylindrical forms are gracefully tapered, and the outdoor version of the tea set is left in naturally colored gray concrete.
By presenting coexisting, three-dimensional approaches to visual arts -- sculpture and books -- the Shelburne Art Center crosses formal boundaries and illustrates how parallel the two mediums actually are. Booking the two shows together was a fine idea.